When asked if they should make their health a priority, most people would say yes. However, not all of us do. Between work, kids, housework, yardwork, carpooling, paying bills, visiting with friends and family, and a host of other tasks, paying attention to our health often gets pushed to the bottom of the list. We know we should eat less red meat and more vegetables, exercise more, get more sleep and drink more water, but we don’t do it. Or don’t do it consistently. However, despite our busy schedules, family obligations and never-ending to-do lists, it is possible to make our health a priority and actually enjoy it.
With a new year just getting under way, we at Westchester Health thought it was a good time to put together a list of simple things you can do to move your health to the top of your priorities. Some are from kaynutrition.com and others from shannonmiller.com. Yes you do have time, yes you are worth it, and yes you’ll feel better and be healthier as a result!
9 things you can do now to make your health a priority
When pressed, people will often say they are “too busy” to make their health a priority. The reality is that they’re not too busy, they’re just prioritizing other things over their health (which sooner or later, will catch up with them, possibly in very unpleasant ways). Instead of making excuses, we at Westchester Health urge you to put these simple suggestions into practice for a healthier, hopefully happier, you.
Focus on yourself
For many people, especially women, taking care of themselves is not a priority. They may think about it, but actually doing it is another matter. Consider this, though: crossing off every item on your to-do list does not matter if you are sick, exhausted and depressed. Those who are able to make their health a main focus of their lives do so by prioritizing themselves over others. This does not mean being selfish or not caring about anyone else. What it does mean is unapologetically making self-care an important part of your life, well worth your time and effort. The result? You’ll not only be healthier but you’ll be better able to love and care for the people in your life.
Make taking care of yourself part of your daily schedule
Finding time to exercise, eat healthy and get more sleep doesn’t just happen. It becomes a part of your life because you create time for it. Organize your schedule to fit in workouts, meal planning, meditation (or another form of mental focusing) and sleep. You’ll soon find that a little forward planning goes a long way to help ensure you have the time you need to get and stay healthy, along with all your other commitments.
Instead of making changes, create habits
It’s easy to change your diet or your gym, or to take the stairs instead of the elevator one day. It’s making those changes stick, turning them into long term habits, that’s hard. If you really want to make your health a priority, you need to choose things you like doing, over and over again. Do you hate running? Find a form of exercise you do like. Does kale make you gag? Choose healthy foods you like to eat and make them part of your normal diet, not one-offs. Do you enjoy walking your dog? Walk him/her longer. The key is finding things you actually enjoy and look forward to doing every day, and then sticking to them.
Change your environment
People are a product of their environment — the people, foods, and order or chaos that surround them. If your pantry is full of chips, cookies and crackers, you’re unlikely to snack on carrot sticks. Remember: every time you buy something at the grocery store, you are making an investment in your health. Likewise, every time you work out, you’re making an investment in your fitness. If you make poor investments (unhealthy foods, not exercising), you’re not setting yourself up for success. So take a hard look at your overall environment and if it’s not helping you get healthy, change it.
Set attainable goals
If you truly want to create habits, not changes, you need to take it slowly and deliberately, step by step. Start with going to the gym one day a week, then work up to two, then maybe three, not five days all at once. The important thing is to realize that even small changes are changes, and that these small changes over time create big habits. To make your health a priority, and make it last, focus on small sustainable changes you can actually maintain for the long-term.
Realize that you only have one body
In life, you only get one body. Who else is going to take care of it if you don’t? You only have one set of organs and joints, one brain, one cardiovascular system. If you chose not to prioritize your health, no one else is going to prioritize it for you. You can make all the excuses in the world, but when you realize that you are in control of the changes you want to see, it is empowering. Be kind to yourself, and start where you need to start, but understand that this is not your practice life, it’s the only one there is.
Read food labels
Start making it a habit to check the labels of all the foods you buy. Pay attention to how much fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar, protein, trans fats, MSG, artificial coloring/flavoring and preservatives they contain. Also, notice the serving size so you don’t consume more calories than you realize.
Keep track of your numbers
Your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL, body mass index, bone density — all of these measurements are important for you to be aware of and track. They can also be very useful in helping you identify your risk of certain conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. If you don’t know your numbers, ask your healthcare provider if you can get tested, how often, and what the numbers can tell you about your health.
Take time to put some thought into your weekly menu. Add in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and whole grains, and take away unnecessary carbohydrates, saturated fat, starches, sugars and empty calories. You’ll be surprised how making simple adjustments to your diet can make a big difference in your weight, your health and how you feel.
What will you do in the new year to make your health a priority?
When you make it a priority to be healthier, many parts of your life will naturally fall in line with that goal. So start slow, take it one step at a time, don’t let setbacks derail your plans, and most important of all, enjoy the journey.
To learn more about getting and staying healthy, read our blogs on the subject
We’ve written a number of highly informative blogs about preventing heart disease, eating healthy, monitoring your blood pressure, lowering your risk of breast cancer, boosting your immune system, and many more topics, all of which you can access here.
Want advice and encouragement on getting healthy? Come see us.
If you want more information and guidance on how to make your health a priority, not just in the new year but for a lifetime, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health physicians. He/she will offer tips and guidelines, maybe perform a physical examination and some tests, and together with you, come up with a workable plan for living a healthy life. To find the Westchester Health office closest to you, click here or call (914) 232-1919. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
By Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners